9 design magazines everyone should read
This post was published in June 2020. To stay up to date with the latest independent magazine news and reviews, sign up for our monthly email newsletter
Made by people who are fanatical about the many beautiful things you can do with a blank page, design magazines are usually the most luscious print on the newsstand. They are also often the most experimental. We’ve included established names on this list, but we’re also interested in titles that bend the definition of what a design magazine can be. Magazines that use a designer’s point of view and curiosity as a way in to other topics — like litter bins, and teenagers, and Shia LaBeouf’s trousers. Scroll down for the nine best independent design magazines in the world right now.
Funny and exceptionally gorgeous, Eye on Design likes to choose unpredictable themes; past issues have explored “Gossip”, “Psych” and “Worth”. The latest issue is all about utopias, and one of its gems is an advertisement for WeWingIt, a co-working space “for designers who wing it”. Satirising women-only shared working space The Wing, Tuesday at WeWingIt is “Let a Woman Coworker Speak” day.
MacGuffin bases every issue around an apparently ordinary object – a rope, a bed, a window – and the results are consistently stunning. Particularly memorable pieces across the last eight issues include, in no particular order: a theoretical dissection of Shia LaBeouf’s trousers; an investigation into the depiction of African Americans and their kitchens in 50s ads and 70s sitcoms; and a painful series of photographs by Wolfgang Tillmans about the death of his boyfriend, documenting the home they had shared.
Renowned for its insightful and authoritative coverage of the graphic design world, we’re big fans of Eye magazine. But even by its own high standards the 100th issue is something special — a snapshot of contemporary visual culture, with contributions from the likes of Richard Turley, Jessica Walsh, Michael Bierut and Kate Moross. The final stage of production was completed in lockdown, and the issue is tinged with the knowledge that the moment being captured will now alter irrevocably. “Here in the pages of Eye 100 we present a panorama of current, time-stamped graphic design practice as we wait expectantly — screenbound — on the cusp of a new reality that may take years to grasp,” writes editor John L. Walters in his introduction. “Whatever happens within the future world of visual culture, we are certain to keep talking about graphic design.”
Real Review is an architecture magazine with an intimidatingly massive remit — the strapline is “what it means to live today”. The latest issue is themed End Times, and the content is electric. One essay, by RR’s editor Jack Self, aligns Brexit with ‘edging’ (very nearly, but not quite, bringing oneself or one’s partner to orgasm): “this reading posits Brexit as the fantasy of nationalist perverts, zealously pumping the flaccid people’s will”.
Safar is published in Beirut, and issue five’s cover stars are Tsigereda Brihanu and Mekdes Yilma, two Ethiopian women who share their first-hand experiences of living under ‘Kafala’, the sponsorship system used to exploit many vulnerable migrant workers in Lebanon. Entirely bilingual, Arabic and English text sits side by side, and every page sparkles with colour. My two favourite pieces are wonderfully different: an essay on the architectural significance of the ‘maid’s room’; and a Miranda July story about the correct technique required to get a woman off.
Escape from 2020 with The Modernist, a magazine about twentieth century design. Issue 34 is about the rural landscape, but don’t expect rolling hills. Featuring a loving history of litter bins and a double-page spread of a Hebridean bus stop, The Modernist finds beauty in the intersection between the urban and the rural. Tall and slim, most of the pages pull out in concertina-like spreads, so that the architecture appears to be snaking off the page and into your lap.
Published by Harvard’s Graduate School of Design, Harvard Design Magazine is rigorous, and decidedly academic in tone. Themed around interiors, the latest issue has an Indesign page as its cover star and attempts to answer a question originally posed ten years ago, by Mohsen Mostafavi, then the school’s new dean: “Do architects just pay more attention to the outside? Or is it perhaps because the external view of a building provides the image of a totality, an image that in its flatness is easier to comprehend than one of the interior?” Previous themes have been slightly lighter: an issue from 2017 was themed around teenagers because “the millennium is in its teenage years — and it shows”.
Mold is a design magazine about the future of food. Techy and slightly trippy, its fourth issue, entitled ‘Designing for the senses’, begins at birth: “Within minutes of being born, one of our first acts is to seek out food… mewling babies crawl up their mother’s bodies to breastfeed themselves.” In the pieces that follow, neuroscientists, chefs and farmers propose design solutions to the food crisis.
A magazine that concentrates on just one tactile adjective at a time, Feeeels’ very first issue is entitled, ‘Fuzzy’. So imaginative it’s actually a bit unhinged, there’s a how-to guide to washing a bee in here, as well as a short story entitled ‘Woolly Monuments’, envisaging an alternate reality where all the major global landmarks are made out of wool: “some people are drawn to them, willing to travel great distances to stand beneath their massive scale or encase themselves in the soft, oversized — and oddly warm — fur”.